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By Thami Kwazi

Lifestyle Print Editor

Dubai – A glimpse into the future

The Dubai Expo costing $7 billion opened on 1 October 2021 and closed in March. Visitor numbers were shy of three million

Planes, trains and automobiles of the future, sustainability and businesses were some of the key standouts of the Expo 2020 Dubai – and let’s not forget chutney.

A queue snakes into the parking lot of the Dubai Exhibition Centre grounds, with a recorded 22.9-million visitors – by 29 March, the projected number of visits had risen to 25 million by the Bureau International des Expositions member states.

The $7 billion (about R125 billion) expo opened on 1 October last year and closed on 31 March, with visitor numbers just three million shy of what was forecast.

It was supposed to take place in 2020 but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the few places where photography is not restricted is outside Dubai Expo 2020, with its massive orange sign

The first international Middle Eastern expo was organised by United Arab Emirates (UAE) chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum as chair and Reem al Hashimy as CEO of the Expo City Dubai Authority.

The showcase was more than a tourist opportunity, but was a business prospect for any country looking to increase its investment potential. Not only accommodating countries that sit adjacent to the UAE but Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Statistically speaking the expo, just in construction, employed 40 000 workers putting up more than 100 displays.

UAE officials had previously said 275 000 jobs would be created attached to diverse sectors, the most obvious being in the hospitality and service industry.

More than 400 technicians were employed to work on the closing ceremony alone, and there were also volunteers from various countries.

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With the theme, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, many of the larger exhibit halls, called pavilions, were successful in displaying what their countries would offer visitors and investors in years to come.

Each of the 192 pavilions showed different parts of the participating country and possible technologies projecting into the future of that country.

Opportunity, sustainability and mobility was the interactive and educational subtheme, focusing on science, innovation and technology.

Adding more excitement to the expo, the park created themes around current issues, like climate and biodiversity week, which took place just before the COP26 global environment summit.

Particularly apparent was the inclusion of key themes with the strong technological exhibit from Emirates Airlines, placing a solid emphasis on what was to come in 50 years in the aerospace and travel environment.

Displays included glass balls, placed as keys to switch on each display, and visitors got the opportunity to play with the mechanics of creating a futuristic aircraft.

A cleaner environment was at the centre of every creation of the future aeronautical space.

Special delivery. An Emirates Airbus A380 aeroplane displays a special livery for Dubai Expo 2020.

Another interesting display was a three-dimensional exhibition where visitors wearing a pair of virtual reality goggles sat on a futuristic aircraft seat and selected a trip, food, music and flight route (correlating to any current Emirates Airlines route) while engaging with well-executed graphics.

The final element of the display led to a holographic room with a projector which showed the UAE of the future, including regular daily aircraft and bullet trains far beyond what the present imagination can fathom.

Truth is, the UAE has worked hard to predict a future of travel, that judging by what’s already been achieved in the country could easily come to fruition.

The South African pavilion was lacklustre and did not display any of the themed requirements. It was more of a spaza shop of foods and products which displayed the proudly SA decal. But what’s scientific about chutney or biltong?

Gate to the future. The entrance to Dubai Expo 2020.

South African artists did at least contribute to an entertaining opening ceremony.

While keeping it light there were peace marches from various nations, highlighting key national holidays or causes. Guests were encouraged to join some of the marches which included live music and mascots for the cause.

Homage to important causes which affected each nation was executed respectfully.

The question is, with so much effort spent on creating an expo, was it a success?

Judging from current numbers, one would say, yes. According to Arabian Business magazine visitors to the country grew by 12.7% while there was a 27% rise in nonoil foreign trade, creating 300 000 jobs and cementing a position of growth for the UAE as a tourist destination. Plus, to date, there have been 12.8 million virtual visitors and counting.

Many have asked what will become of the grounds? The city that took so many years to build will be repurposed for housing, commercial buildings and offices.

The pavilions will be torn down and materials used to build them reused in keeping with the ongoing theme of sustainability.

GETTING AROUND. The metro train runs through Dubai.

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